Resignations over „Predator“ spyware scandal in Greece

The Greek secret service spied on at least one journalist, today its head resigned. In addition, the prime minister’s secretary-general quit his post. The affair reaches the EU level after a current MEP was also spied on.

The Greek wiretapping affair involving the „Predator“ spy programme is widening. According to media reports, Grigoris Dimitriadis, the Secretary General of the Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, resigned today. Today, his office writes that the head of the secret service, Panagiotis Kontoleon, has also submitted his resignation.

The association „Reporters United“ had previously reported how a network of companies with the participation of Dimitriadis was making money from state operations of the spyware. Intellexa, the company that distributes „Predator“ in Greece, is part of this. The revelation is also explosive because the two are relatives: The Secretary General is the nephew of the Prime Minister, who in turn is directly responsible for the secret service as a user of „Predator“. „Resignations over „Predator“ spyware scandal in Greece“ weiterlesen

Europol warning: Right-wingers equip themselves with 3D printed weapons

A radical right-winger has been arrested in Slovakia for using self-printed weapons and explosives. Investigators on the phenomenon met in The Hague three weeks ago.

Together with foreign police and intelligence services, officials in Slovakia have arrested a right-wing extremist who allegedly distributed instructions for 3D self-printing weapons and explosives. The man is described as dangerous and is currently in pre-trial detention awaiting further proceedings.

In addition to the Slovak police and criminal investigation department, the country’s military intelligence service was also involved in the investigation. Because the crimes involved cross-border organized crime, the Czech police cooperated as well.

Raids subsequently took place in Slovakia on May 11 and in the Czech Republic on May 23. In the process, law enforcement officials said they discovered a „sophisticated 3D printer“ and electronic devices that are currently under investigation. „Europol warning: Right-wingers equip themselves with 3D printed weapons“ weiterlesen

New EU information system: EU member states push for police use of biometric repository

The EU is merging biometric data from different databases into a „Common Identity Repository“. Security authorities are to use it to compare fingerprints and facial images. This will affect tourists, business travellers and refugees from third countries.

If the European „Entry/Exit System“ (EES) goes into operation as planned in four months, all travellers will have to provide fingerprints and facial images when crossing an EU external border. This database is now to be used increasingly by security authorities. The EU interior ministers want to adopt conclusions on this in the Council. The British civil rights organisation Statewatch has published a draft of these conclusions.

The coveted data will be stored in a „Common Identity Repository“ (CIR), which, according to current plans, will be launched in a year’s time. The planned conclusions call on member states to enact laws allowing biometric searches, „in particular for the purpose of facilitating the correct identification of persons“. „New EU information system: EU member states push for police use of biometric repository“ weiterlesen

German ANOM investigations: The mysterious EU third state

The FBI had a crypto-messenger programmed that was fully intercepted. For legal reasons, the US authority received the intercepted communication via detours. Because of „hearsay court orders“, its use in German criminal proceedings is questionable.

Ever since the encrypted messenger service EncroChat was hacked by authorities from France and the Netherlands in March 2020, investigative proceedings have been piling up at law enforcement agencies across Europe. Millions of chat messages have been transmitted via Europol to the relevant authorities in EU member states for follow-up. Almost every day, therefore, there are new raids, arrests or convictions in Germany as well.

Although the hack was presumably carried out by a French secret service and involved mass surveillance without any reason, the German Federal Supreme Court – unlike some regional courts before it – recently allowed the use of EncroChat data as evidence in Germany in principle. This was because the information had been collected by France, i.e. an EU member state, and passed on within the framework of European mutual legal assistance. The countries participating in this set of rules were to be trusted in principle. „German ANOM investigations: The mysterious EU third state“ weiterlesen

Status agreement with Senegal: Frontex might operate in Africa for the first time

The border agency in Warsaw could deploy drones, vessels and personnel. It would be the first mission in a country that does not directly border the EU. Mauretania might be next.

As a „priority third state“ in West Africa, Senegal has long been a partner for migration-related security cooperation with the EU. The government in Dakar is one of the addressees of the „North Africa Operational Partnership“; it also receives technical equipment and advice for border police upgrading from EU development aid funds. Now Brussels is pushing for a Frontex mission in Senegal. To this end, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen travelled personally to the capital Dakar last week. She was accompanied by the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, who said that a contract with Senegal might be finalised until summer. For the matter, Johansson met with Senegal’s armed-forces minister and foreign minister.

For operations outside the EU, Frontex needs a so-called status agreement with the country concerned. It regulates, for example, the use of coercive police measures, the deployment of weapons or immunity from criminal and civil prosecution. The Commission will be entrusted with the negotiations for such an agreement with Senegal after the Council has given the mandate. The basis would be a „model status agreement“ drafted by the Commission on the basis of Frontex missions in the Western Balkans. Frontex launched its first mission in a third country in 2019 in Albania, followed by Montenegro in 2020 and Serbia in 2021. „Status agreement with Senegal: Frontex might operate in Africa for the first time“ weiterlesen

First type certificate: Israeli drone may fly domestic missions in future

Arms manufacturers want to market their long-range drones for interior ministries or agriculture, but to do so they must fly over populated areas. Market leaders are working feverishly to obtain the necessary permits.

For the first time, the Israeli Civil Aviation Authority has issued a permanent permit to fly a drone in civil airspace. The type certificate was granted to the defence company Elbit for its „Hermes Starliner“, as the company announced in a press release yesterday. According to a spokesperson, Elbit spent six years working on the certification, a process that involved „thousands of man hours, dozens of audits, laboratory tests, ground tests, intensive flight tests and thousands of documents“.

Until now, civilian and military flights of such large drones in Israel were restricted to reserved airspace. According to the aviation authority, the certification that has now taken place meets the applicable NATO standards for the integration of heavyweight drones. Accordingly, the drones used by the military can use civilian airspace – for training, for example – and ascend over populated areas. „First type certificate: Israeli drone may fly domestic missions in future“ weiterlesen

Under Spanish leadership: EU military develops novel police drone

Several defence ministries are participating in a project on „dual-use“ reconnaissance drones. Only the Spanish army reveals that they can also be armed for military use.

EU member states want to develop drones with „autonomous behaviours“ that can be used for civilian and military purposes. These „dual-use“ aircraft are to weigh around 150 kilograms and do not require a runway. Accordingly, they could also be flown by law enforcement and disaster control agencies as well as civilian rescue organisations for aerial observation. The military wants to use them with the army, the air force and the navy.

The project is called „Next Generation Small RPAS“ (NGSR) and is part of the Permanent Structured Cooperation agreed by the European Council in December 2017. With the exception of Denmark and Malta, all EU Member States participate in what is also known as PESCO. The initiative aims to improve military cooperation between member states. To this end, the governments commit to increasing their defence spending and investing more money in joint research and development projects. „Under Spanish leadership: EU military develops novel police drone“ weiterlesen

German project: Drones for non-governmental maritime rescue

Searchwing has developed a waterproof drone that can be hand-launched from a ship. In a two-hour mission, the aircraft flies up to 120 kilometres. For real-time transmission, members are working on a new model.

In the Mediterranean, EU agencies use drones to track and stop refugees on their way to Europe. Since May this year, Frontex has stationed an Israeli „Heron 1“ on Malta, soon to be followed by an even larger drone. Individual member states are also increasingly relying on autonomous systems for their coast guards. They are supported in this by EMSA, the Maritime Safety Agency.

For some years now, non-governmental organisations have also been experimenting with unmanned aerial vehicles. Their objective is to rescue people on the high seas and then disembark them in a state that will not persecute or mistreat them. One of the groups is Searchwing. In October, the activists completed a test on the ship „Sea-Watch 4“. I spoke to Philipp Borgers about this. „German project: Drones for non-governmental maritime rescue“ weiterlesen

New control system: Frontex ends pilot project on facial recognition at EU borders

Until now, only asylum seekers and visa applicants had to hand over their biometric data before entering the EU. With an Entry/Exit System, this will be extended to all other travellers from third countries. Border controls will be significantly delayed from 2022. Entry apps and automatic „eGates“ should save this time again.

The EU border agency Frontex has completed a series of tests on the storage and processing of biometric data at land borders. At three checkpoints in Bulgaria and Spain, four fingerprints and the facial image, as well as the date and place of entry or exit, were taken and stored, in addition to the travellers‘ names and documents. The border controls were carried out by volunteers, for which Frontex spent 1.5 million Euros.

The background to the pilot project is the imminent introduction of an Entry/Exit System (EES). All travellers from non-EU countries must register biometrically each time they cross an external EU border. This applies in particular to short-term visa holders and visa-free travellers from around 60 countries. „New control system: Frontex ends pilot project on facial recognition at EU borders“ weiterlesen

EU drones for people in distress: Dropping life rafts for pullbacks?

For the first time, drones are flying on behalf of an EU agency with rescue equipment on board. On the high seas, the actually useful technology could encourage illegal refoulements to countries like Libya. Perhaps the new function will only be used for minor maritime emergencies in European waters.

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has awarded a new €30 million contract for drone services. It has gone to the Portuguese company Tekever, which is flying an „AR5“ for EMSA since 2016. Reconnaissance missions of this fixed-wing drone are carried out for coast guards of the Schengen member states, that have to submit a corresponding request to the agency for this purpose. According to the tender, the EMSA drones are also to monitor the Mediterranean Sea within the framework of missions of the border agency Frontex.

Tekever equips the „AR5“ with radars, day and night cameras as well as receivers for signals from ships or emergency systems. They can stay in the air for more than 12 hours. In Portugal, Spain, France and Italy, among others, the „AR5s“ have completed more than 1,200 flight hours in almost 250 missions, including surveillance and safety at sea, detecting pollution or combating illegal fishing. „EU drones for people in distress: Dropping life rafts for pullbacks?“ weiterlesen